Tussle for Kwara assembly speaker: Who does the cap fit?

Akwa Ibom State Assembly complex

Despite the sudden ban placed on all the aspirants seeking speakership position in Kwara state from engaging in media campaigns, intense lobbying and scrambling for the number three position is yet to wane. KEHINDE OSASONA looks at the intrigues and the permutations.

The riot act

Just last month, sensing that the desire to become the next speaker of the House of Assembly had become intense and might affect the gains of Otogee in , the top echelon of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state acted swiftly by restraining its members, especially those run for speaker in the House of Assembly, from making any public statement as regards their ambitions.

While handing down the warning recently, the state chairman of the party, Hon. Bashir Bolarinwa, stated that the internecine war being waged by supporters of the members-elect jostling for the position was capable of tearing the party to shreds.

Bolarinwa said the comments by some overzealous supporters of members for the position and that of their opponents were already embarrassing the party, and, therefore, advised all parties involved to, in the interest of peace, sheathe their swords and work for the collective interest of the party.

“The party was built on collective aspirations for a new and would be guided appropriately in the choice of members for strategic positions that would enhance good governance and democratic dividends for the people of the state,” he said.

The Kwara north challenge

Before hand, the Kwara North All Progressives Congress (APC) Elders’ Council had called on the governor-elect, Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq, to ensure fair and equitable distribution of political appointments in the state.

In a communiqué jointly signed in Abuja by the chairman of the council, Abubakar Mora, and the secretary, Manzuma Abdulmalik, the elders said such approach would guarantee unity and strengthen the party in the state.

As part of the strategies to clinch the number three seat among other juicy slots, the group had boasted of its 82 per cent of total votes cast from the area which it gave the APC in this year’s general elections.

The elders’ council re-emphasised that the governor-elect should not lose sight of the gains of an all-inclusive government, equity and fair play in sharing political offices.

In a related development, a Coalition of Kwara North Groups (CKNG) equally demanded that the 9th Kwara Assembly speakership position be zoned to their constituency “for justice, equity and fairness to prevail.”

In a statement issued by the group through its chairman, Comrade Musa Idris Buko, and Comrade Aliyu Bala Isa, it indicated that all the eight lawmakers-elect from Kwara North were united in the agitation.

It advised Honourable Saheed Popoola to toe the path of honour, by rescinding his ambition, saying that his refusal may be at the expense of justice, equity and fairness.

However, religious leaders in Offa local government area of the state under the aegis of Offa Muslim and Christian Clerics Council (OMCCC) canvassed for experience in the consideration for electing the ninth speaker of the assembly.

During a press briefing in Offa, the spokesperson of the group and secretary of CAN in Offa, Rev. Segun Ogungboye, said although zoning arrangement in politics “is good for power balancing, experience among other qualities should not be sacrificed on the altar of zoning.”

The group, therefore, called on the leaders of the party in the state to encourage sacrifice and loyalty to the party rather than zoning formula that may breed apathy.

“When considering as a collective project, it is not illogical to have a new governor and speaker in both executive and legislative arms in the state. The governor-elect, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq, is coming into governance with private sector background, while all the elected members of the assembly, except one, Hon. Saheed Popoola, are all new members,” it noted.

The set back

Meanwhile, as the group was reiterating its stance, another group of elders from the same Kwara South Senatorial District recently threw its weight behind a Kwara north candidate when it called on the APC to, in the interest of fairness and justice, zone the position of speaker to the northern part of the state.

While giving their support, the chairman of elders of Kwara South, James Ayeni, in a statement, re-echo the support of the zone for the north.

The group’s commitment, according to him, stemmed from the fact that the remaining two districts of the state’s central and south would occupy the elective position of governor and deputy governor, respectively.

The statement read partly: “While people reserve the right to pursue their ambition, Kwara South senatorial believe that ambition must be tamed and must not be wild to the point of threatening our unity, or truncate the focus of group on good governance and quest to deliver dividends of democracy.”

Blueprint Weekend gathered that as at the last count, at least eight aspirants had so far declared their intention to run for speaker.

The confusion

Despite the fact that APC is the party with the clear majority having cleared all the 24-member seats, it seems the quest for the speakership which has now taken a dangerous dimension is on the verge of thwarting the Otooge gains on which mantra many of the new players on the political scene were elected.

While speaking to Blueprint Weekend on condition of anonymity, a party stalwart said chances are that Hon Pooola might clinch the ticket after all, adding that “his loyalty has been tested and trusted, and his experience cannot be matched by the others.”

“Let me tell you this, despite the ban, there is an ongoing scheming by the aspirants and there are camps now if you must know,” he said.

Another party member who does not want his name in print said the only thing that could scuttle Popoola’s chances in all of these “is the planned return of Alhaji Lai Mohammed as Minister of Information and Culture knowing fully well that he hails from the same southern constituency with Popoola.”

However, pundits in the Kwara political firmament have argued that like Kwara north, legislators from Kwara south can also lay claim to the speakership position on the basis of equity and justice.

Baring his mind on the issue, a concerned Kwaran and political analyst, Ibrahim Abdulahi, said during the regime of former Governor Bukola Saraki, a southerner, Chief Afolabi Ogundeji was the deputy governor and another southerner, Hon. Babatunde Mohammed, was the speaker on the basis of qualification and not zoning and “heaven did not fall.”

He said, “If they are now saying Popoola cannot be speaker now, they should be reminded that there was once a precedent and people should not turn themselves to revisionists overnight.”

A two-horse race?

Although hordes of aspirants for the speakership position came from the Kwara north axis in the state, the contest appears to have been trimmed down to two of the most prominent among the contestants as others appear to have stepped down for a strong force among them in order to increase their chances of clinching it.

Leading the packs of contestants is Hon. Saheed Popooola who is representing Balogun/Ojomu constituency (Kwara South) in the outgoing assembly and Hon. Abdulahi Halidu Danbaba from Kaiama constituency in Kwara north.

The die is cast

 However, as the purported ban is yet to be lifted, warring gladiators for the speakership position, as gathered by this medium, have resulted to high-wire lobbying in the state and the Abuja national headquarters of the party.

Unconfirmed report has it that one of the contestants has already contacted a former South-west governor who he believes has the ears of a Lagos-based political heavy weight to fight his course on account of his age-long loyalty to the party.

While some people say legislative experience and loyalty should be considered by the members-elect, others are of the opinion that a senatorial district that i yet to benefit from the political equation should be given the chance to produce the speaker.

As it were, it remains to be seen where the pendulum swings, but head or tail, it is expected that the elected speaker would complement the new governor’s efforts towards delivering the dividends of democracy to a state yearning for rapid development.

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